The Iron Lady (2011)

Margaret Thatcher's interview on Larry King (1995)

The Iron Lady

Director: Phyllida Lloyd

Writer: Abi Morgan

Cast: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant, Susan Brown, Alice da Cunha, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Iain Glen, Alexandra Roach, Victoria Bewick, Emma Dewhurst, Olivia Colman, Harry Lloyd, Sylvestra Le Touzel, Michael Culkin, Stephanie Jacob, Robert Portal

Synopsis: Tells the story of a woman who smashed through the barriers of gender and class to be heard in a male-dominated world. The story concerns power and the price that is paid for power, and is a surprising and insightful portrait of an extraordinary and complex woman.

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some violent images and brief nudity

A Noble who stood up for what she believed in, or perhaps a mad ultra conservative consumed with power...you decide

When I first saw this movie, I didn't know what to think of it. In fact, I still don't to this day. For the first time in my life, I'm at a total loss for words during a review. Usually if the movie is good, I always know right away about what I'd like to say about it. If the movie stinks, I can easily come up with various humorous ways to rip it to shreds with my writing skills. But for a movie like "The Iron Lady?" What can I really say about it that hasn't been said before?

The film is said to be based on the real life controversial figure, Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep), who starts off as a mere Grocer's daughter, but she ends up not only becoming Britain's first female Prime Minister, but the only one to win three consecutive terms in the 20th Century. To make matters more interesting, she went on to become Britain's longest continuously serving prime minister since 1827. Indeed, her election into office was a historic feat if anything, but she was quite the controversial figure during her political career, as Prime Minister.

In some scenes, the movie displays a young Margaret Thatcher (Alexandra Roach) as an idealistic young girl that yearns to break into politics, and defy a male dominated Parliament system that seems to under value women. However, in other parts of the movie, it shifts forward decades later to where she's already in Parliament, as she makes her move to establish herself as Britain's first female Prime Minister. Once she's elected, she immediately establishes an essence of authority, to where she would not allow anyone to stand in her way of achieving her objectives. It's during those particular scenes, where we see her as Prime Minister, that the movie shows how utterly ruthless she can be, and how she would stop at nothing to get her way; in spite of her colleague's protests. Of course, this also serves as a plot device later to show how the party's allegiance to her begins to dwindle, as she constantly undermines her fellow Parliament members.

Fast forward even further in time, we see Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep again with make up to look older), as a retired Parliament member, who seems to be going senile in her old age. Not only does she constantly become haunted by the images of her deceased husband through vivid hallucinations, but he constantly torments her by reminding her how much she neglected her own family for the sake of her political career. Throughout the film, it constantly shifts between these three periods in Margaret's life, to show the audience just how deeply complex Margaret Thatcher was in her life.

Although some critics have chastised this movie for not defining some sort of strong opinion on the controversial political figure, but I think I can understand where this movie was trying to go though. In some ways, this movie seems to be trying to do what Oliver Stone did with George W. Bush with his controversial film, "W." For those of you who haven't seen the movie, I'll briefly explain. Unlike most political biopics that focus on one aspect of the person in question, "W" took sort of a different stance. Instead of displaying him as some strong misunderstood political figure, or some moronic jackass that ruined the country during his term, it actually did a little bit of both.

Meaning, it showed both the good and bad sides of George W. Bush, to where Oliver Stone wasn't trying to persuade the viewer one way or the other to think a particular way about the former President, but rather telling the viewers what they already knew about him going into the movie; while leaving it up to the viewers themselves to decide how to feel about George W. Bush. In some cases, it changed quite a few people into believing that maybe George W. Bush wasn't such a bad guy after all. While in other cases, it only confirmed exactly how they felt about him all along; whether it be good or bad.

In a strange way, I get the impression that Phyllida Lloyd and Abi Morgan were trying to accomplish the same exact thing with "The Iron Lady", to where they didn't want to portray Margaret Thatcher in a negative or positive light per say, but rather they were trying to show both the good and bad sides of her; while leaving it up to the viewers to decide how to feel afterwards. Granted, it's a brilliant move when it's pulled off well, as it certainly worked for "W." However, where that film succeeded, and "The Iron Lady" failed is that most of the supporting characters were a bit of an after thought in this movie. Unlike "The Iron Lady", the supporting characters for "W" were written rather well, and whenever George W. Bush f***ed up, it not only showed the consequences of his actions, but it also showed how it affected those around him as well. Not only did it work to help create a strong sense of irony in the movie, but it also laid out the foundation to where even if you didn't change your mind about Bush, you'd end up at least feeling something for the supporting characters.

Not saying you don't feel the same effect in this movie, but it never goes quite into as much detail as "W" did. Outside Margaret's husband, we rarely see the rest of her family in this movie. Sure, there was one touching scene, where her kids were banging their fists against the car windows, as they practically begged their mother to stay home with them; while Margaret looked on sternly inside the car, and ordered to the driver to head off, without even bothering to care about her families' feelings at all. Throughout the movie, it shows Margaret constantly neglecting her own family, during her Prime Minister days. But as an old woman, it shows her realizing the consequences of her actions, to attain political power, may have costed her all she holds dear later in life, as she's constantly reminded by the ghostly image of her late husband, Dennis (Jim Broadbent).

Although I will admit, Jim Broadbent does manage to create a great degree of sympathy for his character, but it's a real shame he was the only supporting character that was ever fully developed. Outside of that one touching scene with her kids, we never fully see how Margaret's neglect affects them, but rather we're told how it affects them through Dennis. If they had showed us how the neglectfulness of Margaret affected her children (versus being told), then we might have at least developed a stronger story here. One that not only highlights both the good and bad of Margaret Thatcher, but possibly create one of the deepest biopics ever made. Unfortunately, "The Iron Lady" falls short of that.

Don't get me wrong, it's still a good movie, and if you're into biopics on political figures, then you still might like this okay. However, it's clearly not the best out there, but it's fairly good for a rental. As for Meryl Streep, I thought she played her part rather well, and she definitely carried the movie during some of it's slow moments, but I would hardly say this is her best film.

Overall, I'd have to give this movie a two and a half out of four. As I said before, it's definitely worth renting if you're into these kinds of movies, but I wouldn't pay to see this in theaters. Hmm..I guess I did have a lot to say about this movie after all...


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Comments 23 comments

John Holden profile image

John Holden 4 years ago

Having lived through the Thatcher years as "one of them" (remember her comment about "Us and them") I'm not sure if I'll be able to watch this film. This hub may just make up for that.


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 4 years ago Author

Well from what I read about her, I certainly wouldn't blame you if you decided not to see it. I think during her term, she lost touch with the voters, and didn't stop to ever think if maybe some of her decisions were wrong. Kind of sad if you ask me. I do apologize that you had to live through those years, as I hope things have gotten better for Britain since she left office. Anyway, thanks for stopping by though, and for letting me link your hub to this one. :)


Beth100 profile image

Beth100 4 years ago from Canada

Interesting. I was planning on watching this in the theatre but not having seen W, I'm not sure whether to go or not. The trailers looked powerful and well written/directed. The one thing that did encourage me to go and watch was the fact that Meryl Streep donated her entire earnings from this film to the Women's History Museum. That in itself, makes a bold statement of her belief that womens' stories in history should be taught and told. Perhaps I will still go and see this. Seems compelling and gripping.

Thanks for your review! xox


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York

I think I'd like to see this film anyway, if only to once again admire the versatile Ms. Streep's acting skills.

I guess they didn't get very far into the Irish question, where Ms. Thatcher made the second biggest mistake of her political career. The first was Grenada.

It doesn't sound like this movie actually addresses any of the political questions of the day, and how Ms. Thatcher came to decide her stance on certain issues. I do think it's interesting that a woman in a very high political office is apparently expected to put her children first, according to Steven; though the same is NOT expected of a man in high political office. That's what he has a wife for, I guess.

Beth brought up a very interesting point about Ms. Streep donating the proceeds to the Women's History Museum. I didn't know that. Thanks, Beth.


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 4 years ago Author

@paradise7

actually, I never said that a woman should put her kids first above everyone else, if she's working a high political position, nor did I state the standards should be different for men. I was just stating how the movie makes it seem like during various accounts of the film. I do apologize if it came out the way that you said.

To be honest, I think both men and women should be treated equally, and it's ridiculous that we do have various double standards in society. however, i was mainly referring to how the film portrays it. I do apologize for not making it more clearer though.


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 4 years ago Author

@paradise7

Okay, in light of not realizing how my hub came across, I re-edited it just now to avoid anymore confusion, as I had no idea it seemed sexist. I do apologize it came across that way though.


John Holden profile image

John Holden 4 years ago

Why? Is it really sexist to demonstrate a parent who doesn't have the time and the inclination to offer their children some comfort when distressed?

You know, stop the car for five minutes and give the kids a cuddle "daddy/mummy loves you but got to go to work now, when I get back etc etc"


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 4 years ago Author

@beth100

Wow I didn't know that either. Thanks for the heads up. I guess if there is a good reason to see this movie, then that wold definitely be it. Anyway, I hope you like the film whenever you get a chance to see it, and thanks for stopping by. :)


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 4 years ago Author

@John Holden

Well I don't disagree with you John, as she could've told the driver to wait, and give maybe about five or ten minutes of her time to at least comfort her kids.

However, I usually try to make these reviews as fair and unbiased as humanly possible. Granted, it doesn't always turn out that way, but I try my best. However, it's kind of a shame they don't actually show us more about how distant she becomes from the people that she cares about over the years, as those were probably the best parts of the film if you ask me.


John Holden profile image

John Holden 4 years ago

Stevennix, I've read extensively on the Iron Lady. I don't think she ever really cared much about anybody apart from perhaps her father.


Script Mechanic profile image

Script Mechanic 4 years ago from Wherever Films Need To Be Nitpicked

Pretty much anything Meryl Streep appears in is going to be a winner. (Sigh) Yes, I know about Mama Mia. Aside from that, the timing on this one is kinda interesting, considering the Argentinians are reported to be giving the Falkland Islands crap again. Some people are gearing up for another armed conflict down there, apparently.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York

I'm sorry, Steven, I didn't mean to criticize your hub for being sexist, exactly. I was more trying to criticize the FILM for being sexist, because that's what you got from it--Ms. Thatcher's personal life and children were sacrificed for her political career. I really just wanted to make the point that it's a lot tougher for a woman to get to the top of the political heap while being a "good" parent.

You have perfect freedom of speech as far as I'm concerned and I feel bad that you edited your hub on account of my comment. Your point of view is just as valid (or maybe moreso) than mine.


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 4 years ago Author

Hmm...that's very interesting, as that's quite a coincidence. :/ Thanks for the inside scoop on that.


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 4 years ago Author

@paradise7

Oh no worries. I should be the one apologizing as I completely misunderstood you. I didn't realize it was the movie you were referring to, so I changed it back to it's original wording. Sorry about that. However, you do bring up some good points though. Although it should be interesting to see how well this film will do. I don't know if Meryl Streep will win an Oscar for this or not, but it's definitely a possibility. Anyway, I hope you like the movie whenever you see it, and trust me, I think everyone has a right to speak their mind on this movie whether they seen it or not.


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 4 years ago Author

@john

Well you might be right about that.


jandee profile image

jandee 4 years ago from Liverpool.U.K

Could only watch the first video !! Stomach started to churn, even though the film depicted Margaret Thatcher as a 'Bumbling soul'which she certainly wasn't. She was as hard as iron and that failed to come across in the film as did the view of Dennis Thatcher ! He was her 'Director' she was the 'Star' She did his bidding-Hard man.

Fair write up and I didn't find it sexist . My feelings ,though, are she ,Thatcher wouldn't have appreciated the MS. that you generously gave to her,

best from jandee


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 4 years ago Author

@jandee

Thanks Jandee. I'm glad you liked the review. From reading various other reviews of this film, I can certainly assure you that you aren't alone in your assessment of this movie.

As I just told John, I do feel sorry for those that had to live in England during her Prime Minister Days, as she certainly was no saint. Anyway, thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts with us. :)


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

Hi steve; Despite Streep's 'Best Actress' buzz, I'm not feeling any great desire to see this one in the theaters. I'll probably wait until its on cable. But thanks for the review.

Rob


vmartinezwilson profile image

vmartinezwilson 4 years ago from Vancouver, WA

Steve,

Another great review and I as a big fan of Meryl Streep, I really do want to see this one when it comes out on video. It's not a big screen movie for me, because I found W a bit odd in it's approach.

I do wonder if critics and theorists (I am guilty myself) want to see meaning where there doesn't necessarily need one. If you go back to the origins of film, no deeper meaning was needed and the story was taken for what it was.

Vanessa


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 4 years ago Author

@rob

That's cool. Well I hope you like the movie if you ever get a chance to see it though. Thanks for stopping by anyway. :)


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 4 years ago Author

@vmartinezwilson

Hmm...well you might have a good point there, but a lot of it can also depend on the person sometimes too. I think one of the great things about movies is that not everyone will always interpret them the same way.

However, I do hope you'll like the movie though whenever you get a chance to see it, and thank you for sharing some of your thoughts with us, as it's always a pleasure hearing from you. :)


vmartinezwilson profile image

vmartinezwilson 4 years ago from Vancouver, WA

You know, I'm just as guilty about needing to find some deeper meaning in films. I was just wondering if it's really that important for biographies or documentaries. I didn't really speak to that in my first comment; sorry about that.

The other thing I didn't really articulate well is that I'll probably wait until it comes out on Blue Ray because I tend to see the big blockbusters/special effects/horror movies on the big screen. I don't have a ton of money, so I have to be a bit particular about what movies I go to see at the theater. :)


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 4 years ago Author

No worries. Well, I think it really depends on the biography/documentary in question. Like I know "Conspirator" last year, it had a very strong anti-government message in it's film that spoke to how low the government can go sometimes in it's affairs. Therefore, I think it really just depends on each movie. I think when it comes to this particular film though, it doesn't really seem like the director had a clear opinion on Margaret Thatcher, so the end result was that they created a film that didn't really seem like it was trying to persuade audiences to like or hate Margaret more so than they already do now.

I do think this movie is kind of interesting, and I can see why Meryl Streep was nominated, but I'm kind of rooting for Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn) myself. I think that's another great biography that has a lot of meaning to it, as it delved into not only the icon of Marilyn Monroe, but it also took on the persona behind the icon as well as it was told through a third person perspective of her. You should definitely check it out whenever you get the chance, as it's probably one of the best movies of last year. That or the "Conspirator."

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